This year’s National Black HIVAIDS Awareness day commemoration is bittersweet for me. I have been involved in efforts to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic for more than thirty-five years. Today, I am announcing that later this year I will be stepping down as the Black AIDS Institute’s President and CEO, where I have had the privilege of serving for the last 19 years.
In 1983, when I started doing this work, none of us could have imagined this mysterious new disease, first identified at UCLA Medical Center, would become the defining health issue of our generation. For 19 years I have been saying “AIDS in America is a Black disease”. No matter how you look at it—through the lens of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, level of education, or region of the country where you live—Black people bear the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country—and the world for that matter. No path, no strategy, no tactic will end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America without ending the epidemic in Black America. We have made tremendous progress over the last two decades toward bringing about the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Today, we have the tools to end the AIDS epidemic in the United States. The question is whether we have the political and moral will to use those tools effectively, humanely, and in an inclusive manner. We are at yet another turning point in the trajectory of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Efforts to end the epidemic, provide treatment for those already infected, or prevent new infections are under attack. Are we are going to build on the remarkable advances we have made over the last two decades or are we going to go back to the dark days of despair and death?
The Black AIDS Institute is committed to doing everything in its power to end this epidemic. Going back or simply resisting the current attacks is unacceptable. Moving forward is the only option. A commitment to new executive leadership is a part of a larger effort on the part of the Institute to prepare for the next generation of HIV/AIDS response in Black communities. This commitment is more important now than ever before. I am very proud of the work we have done over the last 19 years and humbled to have had the privilege of working with so many amazing organizations and remarkable individuals.
The time is right for this change. The Institute has never been stronger. With a strong board of directors; and smart, capable and committed staff; a reinvigorated body of ambassadors, spokespeople, and supporters; the Black AIDS Institute has the infrastructure and capacity to carry out this change and deliver on a bold new vision of advocacy, mobilization, capacity building and delivery of direct service.
But, as always, they cannot do it alone. They will need your help. We are all in this together. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”
Yours in the Struggle,